The Indian Navy is trying to merge its lucrative carrier-borne fighter jet hunt through IAFs MMRCA Deal. In the U.S., the Aerospace and Defense Giant Boeing, which emerged as one of the biggest military aircraft exporters to India this year, has begun the technical process of solidifying their stance in the deal to sell India the most advanced version of F/A-18 in it’s Block III variant.
“The STOBAR, or Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery test program for F/A-18 Super Hornet was conducted at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, US,” Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing added, “We have been working closely with the Indian Navy on the performance requirements for the MRCBF program. The ski jump (trial) concluded goes a step further and will help validate the past studies conducted by us on the ability of F/A-18 Super Hornet to operate effectively from the ski jump.”
Boeing is eyeing the Multi Role Carrier Based Fighter (MRCBF) Deal worth $7 billion where the Indian Navy will purchase around 57 fighter jets to replace their current operating MiG-29K fulcrum fighters, which are in service on INS Vikramaditya and stated to add a chunk of operability from India’s homebuilt carrier INS Vikrant set for Navy commissioning in the next three years. Due to pandemic and unavailability of funds, the Indian Navy may propose to cut the number of jets it will procure from 57 to 36.
USN and Indian Navy have been closely cooperating with each other for 2 decades in the Indian Ocean and are known to interoperate in various drills both nations carried out with each other, including the famed Malabar exercises. The U.S. Navy’s F/A 18 Hornet jets are combat tested and widely used in all active U.S. Carrier Battle Groups fielded on Nimitz class Supercarrier. These jets are designed for CATOBAR configured decks with catapult assisted take-off capability, opposite to the ski jump take off configuration of the STOBAR type that is hosted by the Indian navy carrier INS Vikramaditya and the upcoming INS Vikrant.
Boeing has made and operated 570 Super Hornet and 160 EW specific growler variants and has nearly completed an STOBAR variant of the Super Hornet to meet Indian requirements. Through trials, Boeing is confident it will make India its first global customer for their carrierborne Super hornets. According to given data, Boeing will offer India Block III variants of F/A-18 in both the single seat (E) and double seat (F) version .
Block III is the latest upgrade in the Super Hornet series. Compared to Block II’s 6000 service hours, Block III will host 10,000 service hours with accommodation of conformal tanks, composite material structure, better MTOW and latest radar and sensors to keep fighters at near fifth-generation aircraft capability.
The U.S. Navy has already ordered 78 Block III birds with another side slowly readying F-35C into frontline Ondeck active operation. The Indian Navy has two prime contenders, including Rafale M of the French firm Dassault Aviation. Until the navy gets a domestic option matched with the requirements, the force will look at foreign acquisition. Currently, the Indian navy is actively engaged with Boeing and Dassault Aviation for evaluating both jets in the corresponding deal.